Patalganga river cripples Mumbai industrial units

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Power lines lying in the Patalganga river after heavy rains in Mumbai. Paul Noronha
Power lines lying in the Patalganga river after heavy rains in Mumbai. Paul Noronha

P. Devarajan
Amit Mitra

Mumbai, July 29

AT 6.20 p.m. on July 26, when there was a blow-out in the skies, there was four feet of water inside the factory premises of Cadila Healthcare Ltd at Patalganga, according to Mr Vinayak Pise, Senior Manager, Human Resources.

By late evening, 64 units, including that of Reliance Industries Ltd and Bombay Dyeing, spread over 173 acres of MIDC (Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation) land had more or less stopped working, said Mr M.M. Kulkarni, Deputy Engineer, MIDC, Patalganga, located some 80 km away from Mumbai.

"This area had never seen anything like this since 1991," recalls an official at Cadila, who is an old-timer at the factory. Then, the river had directly entered the factory premises of Reliance and brought operations to a halt.

An eerie quiet has descended over the area when we drove up to the place today, with 49 units working partly or fully working though the majors like Reliance and Bombay Dyeing continue to remain shut. Most of the units are located on the south bank of the Patalganga river and on Tuesday the river rose, flooded the Kaire Road and flowed into the industrial plants located on either side of the road.

Officials at the plant of Reliance Industries refused to speak though the company has said in a press note that the plant manufacturing MEG, PTA, LAB and polyester fibre had to be shut down. Speaking to a couple of workers of Reliance (we gave one of them a lift), we gathered the river waters had spilled on to the Kaire Road this time, but a wall built by the company on the river bank prevented any direct entry of flood waters. None is sure when the huge Reliance complex occupying a long stretch along the river will start though Mr Kulkarni felt it could take some days. We walked the entire stretch of the Reliance plant and did come across an official at the Fibre Gate who refused to make any comments on even whether the plant has been closed.

Mr K.V. Krishnamurthy, General Manager, Operations, Bombay Dyeing, manufacturing DMT and located opposite the plant of Reliance, said they closed operations at 9 p.m. when power from MSEB (Maharashtra State Electricity Board) went on the blink. Till today the power has not been restored as one of the transmission towers has collapsed into the river. The diesel generating sets of Bombay Dyeing is maintaining the essential services and it could take a few days before Bombay Dyeing returns to normalcy.

The road leading to the area is free of traffic and has not been badly scoured by the rains. The Patalganga river, which had swollen by a few feet, is back to its normal self with the hills around caped in thick clouds threatening rains in the coming days. Officials at Castrol Ltd refused to speak, but they sent word through security officers that the plant had started working from today. At Cadila Healthcare, normalcy returned today, informed Mr Pise.

It is difficult to estimate the production loss though Mr Krishnamurthy thought Bombay Dyeing could face a turnover loss of around Rs 12-13 crore till the DMT plant with a capacity of 490 tonnes per day goes online.

"The company has enough DMT stocks on hand and should not worry polyester units though there could be a marginal impact," Mr Krishnamurthy said.

On the way to Patalganga also, there were several units that suffered damages. The angry waters cashed through the boundary wall of Hindustan Organic Chemicals Ltd and entered its plant premises at Rasayani.

"About three-fourths of the boundary wall collapsed. We had to shut down the plant on Tuesday and we hope to re-start it soon," an official of the company said.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated July 30, 2005)
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